Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Swimming with Flipper

Yesterday we had a pretty great experience. We looked over at another boat
nearby, and saw that there was fin passing near a swimmer.

It was clear that the swimmer knew about the fin, and was not getting out of
the water, so we felt pretty sure that it was not a shark.

We saw pretty quickly that it was a dolphin mother and calf, so I swam in
that direction. I intercepted them (they were moving very slowly) and swam
nearby without any real interaction at first. It was thrilling to be near
them, even if I could not see them when they went underwater. They were
about 25 feet away and I had no mask, so I saw them only when they came up
for air.

I asked the nearest boat if they had a mask I could borrow, and they tossed
me one, so now I could see the forms faintly below water at that distance.
After a while, the calf, who was about four and a half feet long, swam by to
check me out. I think it wanted to play.

I unnerved me to be between the mother and calf a bit, but after a little
while it became clear that the mother was unconcerned. When the calf came
near and put his/her head straight down and did a pirouette, the invitation
to play was clear. I did the same, and this was obviously what the calf
wanted, as it darted off and then back (I think it was wondering why I had
not darted off with it). I repeated the pirouette, and so did the calf in
response, finishing with its mouth open in a sort of grin.

It was interacting with me, without doubt. I wish that we had some sort of
ball to see if it would play with that. I did not attempt to touch it at
all, as I had read recently that it is interpreted as a threat, and can lead
to a bite or head butt, both of which can be nasty.

By this time, Pete, Ray and Anna had come over, as well as swimmers from
another boat, and Pete got in the water as well. I had to share the
attention of our little friend.

The mother, in the mean time, was casually swimming around possibly eating
something from the sea floor. She was keeping a watchful eye, but it was as
though she had taken the calf to the boats to entertain the calf, like a
play date with the cruisers.

We found out later that the dolphin had been coming to Georgetown for years,
and would have a calf about every other year. Someone mentioned the name the
cruisers had given her, but I cannot recall it right now.

Very cool.